Structure of Names
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Structure of Aristocratic Personal Names in the 10th Through 15th Centuries

By the turn of the millennium, the inherited family name was the typical surname in the Roman Empire. A person's name consisted of a given name followed by one or more surnames, which came in three varieties: inherited family name, patronymic, and by-name. Patronymics were extremely rare in this period, but by-names were common additions to a person's name. The last name in a string of family names is usually the one inherited from that person's father, though those which might come between the given and last name are in no particular order. Following the last name, or sometimes in place of it, might come a by-name.

Masculine Names

A typical masculine name during this period would look like either

  • Ioannes Doukas Laskaris
  • Ioannes Laskaris

where his given name is Ioannes (John), the family name he has taken from his father is Laskaris, and Doukas indicates that either his mother, one of his grandparents, or one of his great-grandparents was a Doukai.

If Ioannes had made a name for himself on campaign, he might be known as

  • Ioannes Laskaris ho Pontikoctonous (the Rat Slayer)

or, if his exploits were particularly well known, as

  • Ioannes Pontikoctonous

or, if his exploits were of legendary proportions, simply as

  • Pontikoctonous

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Feminine Names

Women's names were constructed similarly. Women would carry their father's last name as their own, and might also carry family names from either their father's or mother's genealogy as middle names. All of these family names would be feminized. When a woman married, she would take her husband's last name, either replacing or appending it to her own. She might also add names from her husband's genealogy.

A typical woman's name during this period would look like:

  • Maria Angelina Palaiologina

If she married Ioannes, her name might become:

  • Maria Laskarina
  • Maria Palaiologina Laskarina
  • Maria Angelina Laskarina
  • Maria Doukaina Laskarina


  • Maria Angelina Palaiologina Doukaina Laskarina

with Angelina, Palaiologina, and Doukaina in any order, or perhaps any one not there at all.

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